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December 20, 2012 Issue

County votes down excise tax
In memory...
Schools recognized for High Progress

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County votes down excise tax

Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

In a close vote, Jefferson County Commissioners rejected a motion to implement an excise tax that would replace the revenue generated by the current energy tax manufacturers pay.

The tax is being phased out over the next four years beginning Jan. 1.

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Estimates are the tax may cost the county $100,000 the first year, increasing by an additional $100,000 each following year until a total of $400,000 the fourth and each subsequent year.

The vote fell 2 to 3, with Commissioner Wayne Davis and Commissioner Johnny Davis voting for the tax while Commission Chairman William Rabun, Commissioner Tommy New and Commissioner Gonice Davis voting against the tax.

Wayne Davis, who made the motion to implement the excise tax, said he will continue to support business in any way he can.

“I don’t see how we can put this on the taxpayers,” he said, adding he had received letters from citizens asking the excise tax be implemented.

In interviews this week, the commissioners explained the reasons for their votes.

New said it was a difficult decision, pointing out the county attorney, Mickey Moses, said the excise tax could be implemented at any time.

“Our development authority is just beginning to have some success,” New said. “I just didn’t feel this was the time to put something on them that would tie their hands. When we get farther down the road, if we see it’s going to have a real impact, we can put it on anytime.

“I just think it’s the wrong time because our industrial authority is looking at different avenues to get us new industry,” he said.

“I feel our legislators put us in a position that we shouldn’t be put in; and that’s not something I haven’t already told them many times,” New said.

The revenue from the energy tax is paid to the county and distributed among the cities with the county getting a share based on a negotiated formula.

“In my opinion, the SPLOST money doesn’t matter because if we don’t get it we can’t spend it. So we don’t have to replace it. But the 1-cent sales money, we have to rollback the taxes for that amount,” New said.

New said a reduction in revenue from SPLOST means there will be less revenue available for specified projects.

“The sales tax is just a guessing game,” he said, adding projected revenues are based on previous years.

“I don’t want to put the development authority in the position where someone will say I can go to Washington County and not pay the tax. We don’t won’t to discourage PyraMax; Wayne Battle is expanding and we don’t want to discourage him,” New said.

“Here’s the bottom line. If people would just look at it logically. There is no such thing as a tax break. If you take off something, someone’s got to pay for it,” he said.

“Let’s go back the last 12 years,” Rabun said. “What has happened to our tax base? It’s gone down. And why has it gone down? We lost Thermo King. We lost Air Balance. We lost Forstmann. We lost Delilah and other companies.

“Eight years ago, we didn’t have an industrial park, per se. Now we’ve got two. We’ve got one new industry and another coming in. It’s not fully in yet, that’ll be the mining operation. And we’ve got some more prospects. The mining operation headquarters will be in the park,” he said.

“Then we’ve got the new industry in Wadley. Hopefully it will soon be up and running. I realize it’ll not be on the tax books for at least four more years but that’ll put millions of tax dollars on our books. Plus the counties around us did not implement the excise tax and companies will take that into consideration,” he said.

“We’ve got the T-SPLOST coming in. A lot of that money can be used for the operation of the road department. That should help some. There are still some places in the budget that might be able to be cut,” Rabun said.

Gonice Davis said, “We’ve been working on the development authority for 10 years here; and, I think we’re getting ready to get something. I think we need to not put this on,” he said of implementing the excise tax.

“This is the first time we’re getting some jobs into this county and we need some more. We just need to tighten our belts. We’re just going to tighten our budget up. We’re not going to raise taxes on people, but just tighten up, close the loop holes.”

He said industry coming in will increase the tax base.

“In my district of the county, we have a lot of manufacturing jobs, more than any other part of the county. They are struggling, trying to keep afloat and not having the excise tax is going to help them, too. Not just with jobs coming but keeping jobs here,” he said.

On the other side of the issue, Commissioner Johnny Davis is one of two commissioners who voted to implement the excise tax.

He said the exemption on energy tax for manufacturing will mean an extra strain on the community.

“It’s a possibility that we’re going to have to reduce services and reduce some employees because of that strain,” he said.

If we don’t find some other ways to stretch our county dollars, it’s just going to put a strain on our budget. We’ve already cut our budget as much as we can. And to cut another $100,000 is just going to put more of a strain,” he said.

Johnny Davis said the commission hasn’t looked at any other way or any other means to try to secure income.

“It’s not about energy. It’s about the work force and you got to have some more revenue. You’ve got to create some jobs to create some revenue. Rural America is still suffering for jobs. Taxpayers just can’t keep paying. People just can’t continue on just being taxed,” he said.

“Where are we going to find that extra $100,000? Where are we going to get that? It’s going to have be some services or some employees furloughed or something,” he said.

Wayne Davis, the other commissioner who voted for the excise tax said he voted the way he did because he had studied the excise tax issue extensively.

“I looked at the revenue stream the county has as well as the expenditure side,” he said.

“The only way that we were going to balance our budget this calendar year is for some type of cuts to be done between now and January. When we make those cuts, that would either be services cut or employees cut. That was even if the excise tax, if everything had been left just like it is. Now the excise tax has gone away, that is another $50,000. Our budget was already going to be short; now, it’s that much more short,” he said.

“Another thing a lot of people don’t understand, when we’re talking about the excise tax, we’re not talking about the full 6 cents, we’re talking about 2 cents. From Jan. 1 to June 30, there’s a good chance we’re going to be short $50,000,” he said, adding that amount with the amount of loss through the next calendar year will come to $150,000.

“I don’t see where we’re going to make it up. I don’t see how we’re going to make it,” he said. “Come June 30, we’re going to have a shortfall in this budget. This tax is just compounding a difficult budget already. I don’t think that the commissioners can afford to put any more burden on the tax payers of this county.”

Although Mitchell McGraw has not taken office yet, he does so Jan. 1, he will be the new county commission chairman.

He said this will be something that requires work from the commissioners.

“I just think it’s something that we’ll have to look at and work through,” he said. “I don’t know where that money’s going to come from. It’s going to reduce our income and we’re just going to have to tighten our belt and look at our income.”

Tom Jordan, the county’s development authority executive director, said the move to not create an excise tax will have a positive impact.

“It definitely has a positive impact on our ability to attract new and sustain existing industry. That’s really the crux of it right there,” he said.

“It can make a difference in the economic development arena in the future. Of course, they (the commission) can implement it at any time; but, I think it will be relatively painless because it’s being implemented over a four-year time frame. To get these industries in you have to give them credit for the taxes. They pay taxes while the buildings are under construction,” Jordan said.

“The county should see increased taxes on the property during the construction process. Also additional revenues from the money that circulates throughout the county from the construction workers. There are some since it’s being phased in over the four-year period, there are some things that will offset that. Since they did not pass an excise tax, it should make Jefferson County more competitive for investment and for more jobs,” he said.

Jordan said another plus with new jobs that come to new projects like PyraMax.

“They will put more money through the payroll to the county’s economy. That’s a positive that nobody’s been able to estimate the benefit,” he said.

Two of the cities in the county, Wrens and Wadley, have manufacturers inside their city limits and could implement an excise tax of their own.

Wrens City Administrator Arty Thrift said Wrens will not implement such a tax.

Wadley City Clerk Sallie Adams said the city council has not discussed such a tax; but, Wadley has four companies that will be impacted by the energy tax exemption.

Thrift and Adams each said they did not know how the city’s budget will be effected by the exemption on the energy tax.




In memory...


United Hospice and Jefferson Hospital recently held their Tree of Memories ceremony at the hospital in Louisville. Several area citizens lit candles in and hung ornaments in memory of loved ones who have passed away. The candles represented grief, courage, memory and love. The dove-shaped ornaments represented the eternal peace of their loved ones.


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Schools recognized for High Progress

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

The Georgia Department of Education recently released the list of Reward Schools as part of the state’s waiver from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Two area schools were named as High-Progress Schools.

A “High-Progress School” is a Title I school among the 10 percent of Title I schools in the state that is making the most progress in improving the performance of the “all students” group over three years on the statewide assessments. A school may not be classified as a High-Progress School if there are significant achievement gaps across subgroups that are not closing in the school.

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“This is a new designation that the state gives since we no longer have AYP,” Jefferson County Assistant Superintendent Donnie Hodges said. “We have a new performance index, they will name the schools that are highest performance and those with the most progress and our schools fall under the most progress over the last two years academically with the CRCT and end of course tests for 2009 to 2011.”

Jefferson County High School and Wrens Elementary School were both recognized as High-Progress Schools. Before the new title, schools were identified as distinguished. Hodges said when the whole index charting performance was overhauled by states, including Georgia, to better grasp student achievement and needs; the name was changed as well.

Sharon Dye from Wrens Elementary and Dr. Alan Long from the high school, both came before the Jefferson County Board of Education to speak to members about what they felt in general contributed to their school’s success.

“We have really been working with literacy and mathematics, the system as a whole,” Dr. Hodges added. “We are working in strengthening assessment across the board to know where our students really are.”

The high school has also made strides on continuing to improve its graduation rate, by making sure students stay in school and pass tests in order to graduate.

The designations will be announced every year, with the 2010 through 2012 years being announced next year after the spring exams and tests. Dr. Hodges said this is the first time the school system has had this designation.

While the state recognizes achievement in schools, the Georgia Department of Education also recognizes alert and focus schools, which none of Jefferson or Glascock counties schools made either list. Dr. Hodges said that those schools often need the most support from the state, have the most problems and have large gaps in learning.

“The fact that we did not have any school identified made us very pleased,” she said. “There is always work to be done, and having two schools recognized for their progress speaks well of the work of all of our schools. We are working very hard with the new standards and it is a lot on the schools’ administrators, teachers and students, but they are all working very hard.”

“These schools are shining examples of what we can achieve in public education in Georgia,” said State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge added. “I want to take what’s working at our Reward Schools and replicate that in every school in the state. These are the schools making education work for all Georgians.”







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